Friday, September 23, 2011

Last Day in India - Coming Home!

9/23/2011 Day 18 + traveling day(s)

I find that many of the men in Delhi find it completely ok to blatantly stare at a woman. While in the subway car in Delhi yesterday, there were several times where someone right in front of us, and I mean literally RIGHT in front of us, would just stare and stare and stare in a completely obvious fashion. I kept being tempted to just stare right back until they got weirded out and looked away.  I never did test out this tactic, though. Anyways, this happened a lot yesterday in Delhi. It must just be a cultural difference, but it's something I couldn't get used to.

Since my camera is busted, I have no pictures of what I did yesterday on my own camera. I did, however, commandeer Mairi’s camera a few times (with her permission of course), so hopefully I’ll be able to acquire those sometime soon. For now, though, I’ll use some google images.

We spent the whole day in Delhi. In the morning I went to the Red Fort (which had a very similar architectural style to the buildings at the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort) with Ellen and Mairi, and spent the rest of the morning shopping in Old Delhi.

I found Old Delhi to be a bit too much for me. It wasn’t just the huge amounts of people pushing past you everywhere you go, but also the incessant harassment by street vendors. You couldn’t walk down a block without having to dismiss and get away from 10+ vendors. It was incredibly tiring. I did find some fantastic T-shirts, though. There were these one kinds of T-shirts that were EVERYWHERE. All they said was “Being Human”. I had to get one. I also found a ridiculous one that just said “I’m Cool”. I couldn’t resist silly tees – especially when they came out to cost near the equivalent of three American dollars.

After lunch Maria took us to Ugrasen Ki Baoli – a stepwell (an undergroud structure for the storage of water). It was pretty awesome.

We also went to Jantar Mantar, which is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments built by Maharaja Jai Singh II. The observatory “consists of fourteen major geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking stars’ location as the earth orbits around the sun, ascertaining the declination of planets, and determining the celestial altitudes and related ephemerides". It was SUPER COOL.

Later Maria took a few of us girls to Fab India to go shopping. I didn’t originally think I was going to buy myself an outfit (salwar kameez), but I found a super cute one. It's super comfy.

Yesterday was our last day in India. We spent the day in Delhi and headed to the airport last night around 8. I (and four others) had a 6 hour flight last night (starting at midnight Delhi time). I forced myself not to sleep during the first flight so that I can hopefully sleep the majority of the way through the long ~12 hour flight.  I'm now in Hong Kong, it is ~11 AM Delhi time, and I didn't sleep at all last night. Very soon, though, we’ll board our flight to SFO and it’s GO TIME. I even wore the Aladdin pants I bought in Leh for the flight - as comfy as pajama pants. Even as I type now, I find that I keep nodding off for a split second at a time.

I’ve had a really good time in India, but I am also extremely excited to get back in the states to the temperate climate of Palo Alto, Western Style toilets, and my comfortable (comparatively) bed.

Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra Fort, and Camels!

Day 17 (Guidebook Day 17 – Led by Debra)

Maria had warned the girls of the group that it is not uncommon for men in Agra, Delhi, and other large Indian cities to be very inappropriate towards women and will sometimes grab them inappropriately just because they can. I had an experience like that first thing this morning. We were all heading out to go to the Taj Mahal at 5:30AM. I stopped for a moment to wait for people to catch up when an Indian man walked by and I felt a very obvious and very intentional ass-grab. I replied with a not-all-that-loud “What the f**k!?” directed his way, his only response being that he just stared at me as he kept walking away. I was unsure if a louder and more pissed off reaction would attract the wrong kind of attention, but I was later told that I should feel free to curse them out when they do such things. The whole thing just made me feel gross.

Something interesting that helps to deal with these types of behavior is the “women only” cars in the metro trains. The first car of each train in Delhi is for women only, and any man to step into this car will be met with nasty looks from the women in the car. I’ve seen it. Although I think it’s sad that it needs to come to that, I’ll be honest, I felt much better in the women only cars – especially when the cars were super crowded

So, the Taj Mahal this morning was EPIC.

Then we went to Fatehpur Sikri, a town built in 1571 by Mughal Emperor, Akbar. He had planned the city as his capital but shortage of water compelled him to the abandon the city. So now, the “city” is a tourist attraction.

It was an odd place because, although it was an abandoned city, it was filled with people, plenty of them beggars. So many beggars have never approached me in my life. The children will come up to you and ask you for money. If you say no, they just ask again. It sometimes takes minutes for them to leave. Although I feel bad about ignoring the kids (and the adults, too), there’s not much else you can really do. You can’t exactly give money to every beggar, especially at this site. You’d go broke in no time.

We ended the day with Agra Fort. You can get a good alternative view of the Taj from there.

While at the fort, groups of Indian men kept coming up to us to take a picture with us. They would just come on up to us and say “group picture”, or “just one picture”, and they would group around us before we could even reply. Since people kept insisting on this, I decided “Fine, but I’m getting one, too!” I mostly just think it’s hilarious.

Streets of Agra:

Right now I’m on a train heading back to Delhi. Tomorrow is my last day in India, with my plane taking off at 11:45 PM. I’ve had a fantastic time, but I am also extremely ready to be back home.

Sad note of the day, my camera lens is busted. It has been slowly falling apart for a while now. It started months ago as just being a bit “sticky” at a particular spot when zooming in and out. It turned from sticky to very difficult. Then, a few days ago, it stopped auto-focusing half of the time. When I took the lens off the camera body to inspect it, I noticed a piece of plastic fall to the ground. Since then, the lens was just less well attached to the camera body. Tonight, though, it became obvious that it just did not want to stay attached at all. Time for a new lens!

Today we took a train from Agra to Delhi.

Day 16: Almost Terrifying Rickshaw Experience and Humayun's Tomb

9/21/2011 Day 16 (Guidebook Day 16)

This morning we flew to from Leh to Delhi. It was a short flight – just over an hour. Our flight was very early, causing us to have to leave our hotel at 4:15. I’ve also never had so many check points and felt like I went through so much hassle at an airport before. 

They pat down each person as they go through security. The females are walked into a booth closed off with curtains for their pat-downs by a female security worker. The males, on the other hand, are asked to stand on platforms out in the open in the room where everyone is waiting for their plane for their pat-down. The woman at the x-ray machine took my rocks out of my bag, looked at them really strangely, and showed them around to the other workers before shrugging and putting them back. Haha.

I rode in one of those bicycle rickshaws for the firs time today. I feel like it should have felt terrifying, but it wasn’t… I mean, at one point our driver (or I suppose our rider) turned right (like our left) at an intersection after the light had already been red for like 5 seconds. It seems to be ok, though, because everyone drives like that. Driving in India just seems to be a kind of organized chaos. As long as you understand how it works, you can get through the madness.

We also went to Humayun’s Tomb. Pretty cool. Not much else to say about it.

Today we flew from Leh to Delhi, and then took a train to Agra. Taj Mahal tomorrow!

Day 15: Last Day of Geology and Hemis Monastery

9/20/2011 Day 15 (Guidebook Day ? and ? - led by Marianne, Jess, and Aaditya)

Today is our last day of geology before our last few days that will consist mostly of hanging out in Delhi and Agra (for the Taj Mahal!).

We started it off with a couple of outcrops.

Pegmatites, yo.

Secondary Folding


We stopped by the Chemey Gompa for lunch. We didn’t actually have time to go in, but it makes for a cool picture.

We then went to Hemis Monastery. It was the only monastery or temple we went to wehre they would allow pictures to be taken inside the prayer rooms.

Today we drove from Pangong Tso to Hemis to Leh.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 14: Adorable Monk and Pangong Tso

9/19/2011 Day 14 (Guidebook Day 10 – led by Marianne)

This morning we passed over what also claims to be the second highest pass in India at 17,586 ft. Either way, I’ve definitely passed over the second AND third highest passes.

In the afternoon we went to the Karakorum shear zone at Tangste

I admittedly didn’t look at the rocks much, and instead went to the monastery (seen perched on the rocks in the picture above) with Debra. Upon reaching the top of the monastery, we were greeted by a sweet old monk. After serving us some orange soda, he gestured for us to follow him. He took us to three rooms in the monastery (unlocking each one as we came to them) that were obviously places for prayer. (I don’t have pictures from within these rooms because photographys is discouraged in these places.) There was an obvious language barrier, but he would still chat with us anyways. He would sometime point out the different gods, giving us their names, which we attempted to pronounce. (Butchered pronunciation on our part was often followed by a warm laugh and a pat on the shoulder.) At the end of the tour, he offered us both chai. Before we left, he probably gave us about five hugs each. He was adorable; he totally made my day. I wonder if he is the only person up there most of the time. I saw no one else.

Our tour guide

Then we went to Pangong Tso and hung out for the rest of the day.

There was a guy dressed all in white that kept walking along the beach with his arms held out wide (being filmed the whole time). I’m not sure what it was for, but in my heart I hope it has something to do with a Bollywood movie or a music video. Jacob thinks it's a video about Indian Jesus. All scenarios - awesome.

Today we drove from  Upshi to Pangong Tso.

Day 13: RFC Nights, Charismatic Megafauna, and Lowered Cleanliness Expectations

9/18/2011 Day 13 (Guidebook Day 7 – led by Simone)

Holy crap. It was COLD last night. RFC. There was frost on my bag this morning. Perhaps I’ll sleep in the tent if it’s this cold on some of the nights to come. Brr.

Something I’ve noticed about India – there are dogs everywhere. There seems to be a dog that lives at this campsite, and every town you go through there are strays all around. I tend to steer clear of them. To me, I just see them as potential rabies carriers. Not so cute anymore, eh?

I’ve never been so aware of my water intake than on this trip. Because we are at such high altitude, it is more important that we drink adequate amounts of water. Dehydration only helps along altitude sickness, which in turn makes you dehydrated. Vicious cycle. I often don’t realize I’m dehydrated until I get a massive headache, and then realize I haven’t had anything to drink yet that day.

I was made aware today of how my definition of clean has been lowered. After checking out a bathroom (and then immediately leaving it), I commented on how, although it only consisted of a confusingly small hole in the very corner of the room (extremely inconvenient), it was fairly clean.  (I mean, most of the bathrooms we use now are just holes in the ground, but this one was just confusing.) I think I’ve become extremely grateful of any bathroom that does not have toilet paper everywhere and a pile of feces in the corner.  I am also content with a shower consisting of a moist bathing wipe (supplied by REI) while camping if nothing else is convenient.

Today was a fairly relaxed day. The group spent the morning doing geology together, but then split in the afternoon with half going to hang out Karzok near the lake there, and the other half doing the planned day of geology. That way the group that just needed a break to recoup was able. (I was definitely included in that group.)

Here is some “charismatic megafauna”

The lake at Karzok

Today we drove from Sumdo to Karzok to Upshi.

Day 12: Starry Nights

9/17/2011 Day 12 (Guidebook Day 8 – led by Mairi)

While we’ve been camping, I’ve mostly been sleeping outside. It’s been amazing. I love my zero degree sleeping bag, though. I don’t know what I’d do without it.

Random side note: the lunches that have been packed for us seem to consistently revolve around cucumber and tomato sandwiches. The dinners here are amazing, but I could definitely do without more cucumber and tomato sandwiches. Today they changed it up and we got a cheese sandwich for lunch. It was just one slice of American cheese between bread, but it was a very welcome change.


Hot Springs in Chumathang

Touchin’ the Indus River!

Pillow Basalts

Gabbro down-section from the pillow basalts

Chillin’ at a rock stop.

There are two faults visible in this mountain. There is a green section on the left (North),  then a dark brown section, then a tan section. The fault between the green and brown section is a thrust fault, and the fault between the brown and tan section is a normal fault.

Cool folded rock.

Tonight we get momos for dinner. “Epic win”. – Jacob

The sky was so clear. I took these right before going to bed.

Today we drove from Leh to Sumdo.